Cii My Story | 10 March 2014/08 Jumadal Ula 1435
Maulana Saeed Mcane is the the first South African parolee who graduated in 2013 at the Darul Uloom Nu’maniya in Durban.
He was imprisoned in 2001, accepted Islam at the Westville Prison due to the efforts of the Muslim Prison Board in KZN. He was released on parole in 2008 and studied the Imaamat course at Madressah Taalim ud Deen in Isipingo Beach. Thereafter he began the aalim course at madressah Miftaahul Falaah in Harding from 2009 to 2012.
The first account in our new feature series titled MY STORY is a story of a hard crime prisoner who is now an aalim. Look forward to new installments of MY STORY weekly Insha Allah.
My name is Saeed – my Islamic name. My original Zulu name is Bongqi Mcane and I am from the South Coast of KZN. Around Port Shepstone there is a small town called Harding. My family is from there. My parents moved to Umlazi which is a location in Durban. I grew up there and schooled there but I did not complete my High School studies.
Harding is a rural place and since many people look for employment in the cities they move out. My parents did the same, that’s when we moved to Umlazi. After Soweto, I think it is the biggest location in which most of out indigenous people are living. Because of the conditions of these locations there is lots of unemployment and crime. The fabric of the society is torn apart. Growing up we found ourselves having role models who were gangsters and thugs. People who were criminals involved in hijacking and car theft. We looked up to them instead of better people like maulanas, sheikhs, qaris, accountants and we wanted to be like them. Like many I also wanted to live a gangster life and become one of the biggest gangsters in my area. I dropped out of school in grade 11.
Regarding me coming to know about Islam – I had a friend in school when I was doing my grade 11 in Chatsworth. He was a Muslim and we were very close. I didn’t understand much about Islam or even religion, because I grew up in a Christian family with strong Christian values. At that time I was already involved in crime and every Friday I’d watch him leave school early, he was given permission, and since he was my friend I also wanted to leave early. I knew he was leaving for his prayers but for me I thought it would be an opportunity to leave early and go to town and get naughty not necessarily to leave early to go to the mosque which was nearby our school. I started leaving early also on a Friday and going and committing crimes. Many times I found myself being caught by police, going in to prison for three or four months and then I’d be released until I left school totally. I didn’t see school as being of benefit to me and I thought it would just be better to be a fully fledged gangster or thug. But it happened that once my friend was worried about my condition and he asked me to come with him to visit his Maulana who could explain Islam to me. And I went with him and I listened to what they were saying but I was not interested. Until today I don’t know where my friend is. From those days which are maybe more than 10 years ago I don’t know where he is or what happened to him. Until I got involved in bigger crimes, like armed robberies, then there came a stage where my parents were very, very upset and unhappy with me in the house. The police used to come to look for me and other kinds of people would come to look for me. And then I decided to leave the house and live on my own with other criminals. By this time I was heavily involved in crime everyday until 2000, when I got caught along with some other guys for armed robbery and hijacking. We were sentenced to 15 years in prison. I stayed in prison for eight years. Because of the SA government is trying to change prisons into correctional centres where a person can come is as a thug but will be released as a person who can contribute to society. There are many programmed in prison. Besides that they allow different religious denominations to come and speak. For example Christians are allowed to come and give services. There was also school being offered. When I got into prison I thought my life was finished that I’m going to be here for 15 years but they also have a system of parole for good behaviour. That’s when I was released in 2001 after eight years.
Most organisations have a reception area, where people are received, the prison has one also. When I was sentenced I was sent from the courts to Westville prison. In the reception they take down all your information like your personal information, what do you eat, are you allergic to anything, what is your religion and they advise you on how to best fulfil your needs. They asked me regarding my religion, I grew up as a Christian and I was Christian at that time but everything I grew up with had left my life because I was really, really off, out of the right way, the correct path. When they asked me about my religion this I thought about the last time I was in contact with a person who was spiritual was with this friend of mine, Ali Gaffaar. So I told them that I am a Muslim. And they said to me that I don’t look like a Muslim and they wrote apostolic church on my ticket. I was given my clothes which were green clothes at that time and I was told I’d spend the first night in prison at reception. The next morning I was taken to my section where I was to spend my years.
During my time in reception I noticed there was one prisoner I think he was a Muslim although I can’t remember exactly but I noticed that next to his bed there was a copy of the Quran, the thick Quran which is completed by Yusuf Alli, the white one. There was no reading material, there were many prisoners but next to this prisoner there was a thick book. At that time I didn’t know it was a Quran. Then I started thinking to myself that I’m going to be in prison for many years and I need to get rid of this part of me and make sense of my life. So I asked him to let me see the book and he said in prison you don’t borrow people things, if you want things you buy them. So it’s a different life in prison. Although officials are trying to make it a correctional facility gangsterism and bullying is still rife. So I asked him again to borrow it to me because I have no money. And he said no, not unless I gave him some money because prisoners are always looking for something to smoke or to buy drugs. I had one nice jacket on me and so I asked him to trade the jacket for the book. And I thought the book was so thick it would take me years to complete. Only once he gave it to me did I come to know that it was the Quran. And I started reading and reading and reading. And I can tell you that on that night I hardly slept because the Quran and the bible the incidents that are in and the names and stories of the Ambiya AS it’s almost the same stories but in the Quran it emphasises Tauheed – the Oneness of Allah Ta’alah. I started enjoying reading this book and I had developed an interest to get to know more about Islam. Even before I actually accepted Islam, I remember there was a library in the prison, there is a school, I remember going to the library and I even searched for books about Hinduism and different books of different religions. When you are in prison you have a lot of time by yourself and you realise that you are there for good and you want to learn about yourself, about who you are and how you came to this world and there is that soul search, how did I end up here, where did I go wrong in life. And then I found out that I wanted to find out more and more about religion. Because I thought being there, there was no way out and it was like being deep in the sea with no one to help you but God. Only God can make a miracle happen to take you out. I still had that hope that I was going to go out soon. And then I saw that I was going to the library more often and I started schooling at a religious school and receiving education to finish my matric. I learned that the Quran has the message of One God compared to Christianity which was how I grew up and compared to the Hindu scriptures which I was reading. While I was reading the Quran the love for Islam came into me until the officials in my section told me that on certain days people from different religious denominations visit the prison. And they said that I could attend the talks given by the maulanas or pastors with the other prisoners.